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Rules and advice from 'Downton Abbey: Rules for Household Staff'
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Downton Abbey: Rules for Household Staff (St. Martins Press, $14.99) is a little handbook and instruction manual for the servants of Downton Abbey and clearly states the responsibilities for each. - photo by Christine Rappleye
Earlier this month, "Downtown Abbey" resumed with its fifth season airing Sundays on PBS.

The early 1900s drama, which draws in millions of viewers each week, follows the lives of the servants and family of Robert Crawley (played by Hugh Bonneville), the Earl of Grantham.

Whether one is observing Anna (Joanne Froggatt) as she tends to Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Daisy (Sophie McShera) as she assists Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) in the kitchen, or Thomas (Rob James-Collier) as he schemes his way into trouble for nearly everyone around him, watching the daily household operations of Downton can be fascinating.

Since its U.S. premiere in January 2011, "Downton Abbey" has been honored with 11 wins and 51 nominations at the Emmy Awards. At the most recent Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 11, the show was nominated for "Best Television Series Drama," and Froggatt received the award for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television."

In the world of "Downton," servants of many different ranks take on myriad tasks and always seem to know their place even when they're purposefully stepping out of it. The show, of course, is scripted, but how did the staff of the real-world Downton equivalents know what to do for so many circumstances?

Some insights may be found in Downton Abbey: Rules for Household Staff (St. Martins Press, $14.99), a handbook and instruction manual for the servants of Downton Abbey that clearly states the responsibilities for the butler, housekeeper, valets, ladys maids, footmen, housemaids and kitchen staff.

The references listed in the back of the book include many 19th- and 20th-century guidebooks that could have been used by the Downton servants' contemporaries, and the book itself shares the most approved directions for caring for items and presenting oneself in the house, whether it be cleaning boots and jewelry; dusting the librarys bookshelves; how to make various cleaners; and personal decorum, carriage and cleanliness. It also includes instructions for hosting the king and queen if such an honor should ever occur.

Following are several selections of instructions and advice for those who work below stairs at Downton Abbey.



To be a servant, in my view, is a noble calling. Like doctors and nurses, we heal and make well lives that can be fraught with worry and responsibility, we make entertaining a pleasure, motherhood a joy, by taking on the elements of those roles that can be tiring and stressful.

Mr. Charles Carson, butler to the Earl of Grantham, Downton Abbey


"The Benefits of Early Rising"

One can accomplish more work in one hour before the family are up than in two afterwards. By rising early, you secure the earliest opportunity of doing the dirtiest part of your work without interruption.


"Pert Answers"

Humility is a useful qualification in all servants. Giving back answers is a common fault among servants, and will not be tolerated by the Butler, Housekeeper or Cook. Muttering as you leave the room, slamming the door or marching heavily down the stairs is also unbecoming.


"Specific Notes Pertaining to House Parties"

Guests luggage shall be unpacked in the luggage room. As this point, it is imperative that Maids compare dresses planned to be worn, lest anything too similar be worn at the same time.


"To detect dampness in beds"

"Once the bed has been well warmed, removed the warming pan and place a glass tumbler inverted between the sheets. After a few minutes, examine the glass. If found dry, the bed is safe for sleeping in. If drops of wet adhere to the inside of the glass, it is a sure sign of a damp bed. In most parts of England, the application of a warming pan will cause a slight steam inside the glass, but not wet drops. If you find the bed damp, airing the sheets may solve the problem. If not, ask the hotels mangement to provide a change of mattress or, if necessary, an alternative room."


Lady's Maid

The principal responsibility of this role (of the Ladys Maid) is to make sure every detail of her mistresss clothing is well presented at all times indeed, only the Ladys Maid is permitted to touch her mistresss dressing tables and that her hair is immaculately styled .

Hairdressing is a most important skill for a Ladys Maid. You will have been trained in this, but as fashions so often change it is important that you read current magazines in your spare time to be aware of the latest styles. You must brush out your mistresss hair every night before bed and every morning before setting the hair.



Each course of every meal shall be served in timely fashion and at its best. This requires rigorous planning, methodical work and vigilant supervision of the kitchen staffs work. Hot dishes and sauces intended to be hot are expected to be served hot! Here, the Cook relies on the Under Butler for the efficiency of the Footman.


Assistant Cook & Kitchen Maid

Be extremely vigilant: Footmen are prone to leave their cleaning things lying around. It wouldnt do for a bowl of highly toxic salt of sorrel used for cleaning brass rather than chopped egg to be served for breakfast!



A good Footman moves around the household so quietly as to be inconspicuous, and the following method for opening and closing a door, while not essential, can greatly assist you in achieving this.

When opening a door and going through yourself, turn the handle and pass through the doorway keeping the handle turned. When you have passed through, take hold of the handle on the opposite side of the door with your other hand, and hold the catch open until you have gently closed the door, whereupon you can smoothly click the catch into place.


Rules for Waiting at the Dining Room Table

"A Footman must always wear gloves when serving."

"The Footmen will stand with their backs to the fireplace, facing the table."

"Tread lightly at all times and be unhurried and discreet in all your actions in the dining room. The art of serving well is to be so unobtrusive that your presence is hardly noticed."

"Always walk around the table in a clockwise direction."

"Always serve items with the left hand, and from the left side of the person being served."

"Always be vigilant and certain not to tread on a ladys gown."


Advice for Dinner Service:

"When the family and guests have left the dining room, extinguish the candles on the table. Blowing them out will likely get wax on the tablecloth and create extra cleaning work, so it is best to squeeze the flame with the fingers, being sure to wet them first to avoid burning."

Rachel Brutsch contributed to this story.